Kage Baker, as my Dear Readers may recall, was a big fan of what old newspaper people call “the Silly Season.”
She met the idea in an old Clifford Simak novel, from which I insisted on reading amusing passages aloud one summer. My habit of doing that frequently drove Kage mad; but she couldn’t help but save any interesting bits in her enormous memory – just in case they turned out to be useful. It is doubtless all that saved me from instant immolation by optic death-ray (which anyone who knew Kage will testify she possessed), especially in our teen years.
Anyway, she came to like Mr. Simak’s wonderfully American voice, Yankee humour, and the clear newspaper style that permeated his writing. More than that, she loved the idea of the Silly Season. And so she watched for it, and mined it gleefully, all her life.
I’ve talked about this before, of course: how, usually late in the summer, news becomes dominated by reportage of weird, unlikely, frankly goofy stories: Man Bites Dog is the classic example.UFO sightings peak, and so do the stories in the press about them. Bigfoot and Elvis are seen everywhere. It was Simak’s conviction, enthusiastically upheld by Kage, that it was the perfect time of year for aliens, ghosts, fairies and general weird people to cut loose – because odds were, it would get chalked up to harmless seasonal silliness.
Mind you, Kage thought such things happened pretty frequently anyway – and the Internet made them a lot easier to find. But the best ones did tend to come in the summer. This year, they are showing up a little early – as most symptoms of summer seem to lately; it may mean California will drown in rain come September, or it may just mean people’s brains have already fried. I’m already collecting for this year. For instance …
The last few days, a massive and unexpected school of anchovies has been swimming up from La Jolla. They are so numerous it looks like an oil slick. No one’s seen anything like it in a couple of generations. Is something chasing them? Are they fleeing the damned monsoons? Are they headed for Monterey, to make rude gestures at the canneries that closed when they fled those waters? Maybe John Steinbeck knows, but no one else has a guess.
They’ll hit some trouble on the way. Great White sharks spawn off the coast of California, and they are all over this year; from San Diego to Morro Bay and beyond. A gentleman at Huntington Beach got bitten a couple of days ago by a juvenile shark – luckily, not fatally. Manta rays are also swarming up the coast; and of course, the doughty Humboldt squid continues to move its territory North, and will happily eat anchovies between leaping out at fishermen. We even have unusual amounts of dolphins and whales out here this year, including the blue whale that absent-mindedly capsized a fishing boat last week …
In the meantime, God has appeared in an egg-plant to a line cook in Louisiana. His Name was spelled out in seeds, thusly:
Make of it what you will, Dear Readers. I got nothing.
Some poor gent on a train in Essex tried to enter the loo as the train was slowing at the station, and 6 young women in mini-skirts rushed out of the loo and attacked him. One of them kicked him off the train and (luckily) on to the platform, where (unluckily) yet another woman decided he was trying to steal her purse and punched his lights out. Why were the 6 young ladies all in the loo? (Not to mention how?) Who was the lady on the platform? No one knows, and all the police have is a guy with 2 black eyes and a broken nose. This could be a time slip, a dimensional portal incident, or a complicated sexual fantasy gone very, very wrong …
The Higgs Boson, tentatively identified by the CERN Particle Accelerator a couple of years ago, is apparently not behaving as expected. The results so far are: 1) a call for a yet-bigger particle accelerator; and 2) a theory that since the Higgs doesn’t do what we thought it did, none of us actually exist. Seems like a self-defeating statement to release to the news, but I guess someone was bound to notice eventually.
In Oklahoma, the loser in a political race is demanding a recount on the grounds that his opponent (the winner) is a robot.
In Uganda, a policeman shot and killed a tortoise that broke into his house and threatened him. It was evidently belligerent and put him in fear for his life. Presumed possessed, the dead tortoise was then burnt “to ashes” by a local Christian group.
The national astronomers group of Ukraine has named a star “Putin is a dickhead.” Academia is a ruthless place.
And we’re barely into July! This stuff usually gets screwier as the summer goes on. What wonders await us in the dog days of August?
Kage would love this.
It is the time of year to re-read ‘Pueblo, CO, Has The Answers.’ I will assume this heavy responsibility, lest others be damaged by the terrors hidden therein.
I love that story. We laughed so much while Kage was writing it – wandering all over Pismo for scenes and settings. We quite alarmed the little old ladies who ran the Thrift Shop, which was next to the empty lot where the doohickey gets dropped down the pipe … one came out to LOOK AT US quite loudly. I’m sure she thought we were on drugs. But it was just sugar.
Kate – Please could you contact me regarding the paintings of K.C.B.
Kind Regards, Chris. firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s nice that you write about Kage with such Love, but due you intend to ever Write anything,except this blog? I was very sorry and saddened when your sister died. (Much to young and way to talented), but I see No production from you. Your sister could weave a very good story. How about you?
Well, I am trying to get more of my own work published, yes. To date, I have had one short story (“Hollywood Ikons”) and one novel “The Women of Nell Gwynn’s II: On Land & At Sea”. While Kage’s name is foremost on both of these, I actually wrote them – from notes she left. Not to boast, but Kage’s portion comprised 14 of TWONG’s 176 pages; in “Hollywood Ikons”, it was 2 lines of plot notes. If you liked either one of those – or if you like what I write here – you are seeing my work. And if you like it, I thank you. If not – well, there’s still all of Kage’s work.
Waves of the Pismo Beach cap to ya and more writing definitely. Went back and read the first book again. I definitely need to buy and read your book TWoNG II. Going to Pismo and Cambria starting tomorrow. Will have a libation in your honor or honour and one for Kage. Also have to see if the Esquire News and etc place is still there. x0x0x0
I spilled coffee on myself laughing when I read M. Grabo’s comment. Due you intend to get off your duff and Write something other than this blog (witch is very Nice I suppose, but still…) How cheeky! And what a gracious reply.
Having worked at newspapers for many years, I used to love the silly season. I still have a collection of letters from people whose stories didn’t make the paper because they were just too doggone weird. They haunt me to this day, because what if they were true?
The “What if it’s true?” mystery, combined with the “This is too ridiculous” factor is what makes the Silly Season stories so much fun! Not everyone is moved to concoct stories out of all this weirdness (thank God, or there’d be far too much competition) but almost everyone is amused by them. Newspaper people, of course, see a lot of them – in fact, that’s where Simak got his inspiration: he was a newspaperman.
But stop spilling coffee on yourself! That’s dangerous.
Where does one find ‘Pueblo, CO, Has The Answers.’? I know Kage wrote lots and lots of short stories but unless we buy of hundreds of old SF magazines for the one story, I think that some of us are SOL when it comes to the stories. Is there any plan in the works – even five years down the line – of collecting some of her stories for those of us who haven’t read them?
There have been two posthumous collections: The Best of Kage Baker (from Subterranean), and In The Company of Thieves (from Tachyon). I do want to release a third one, with all the weird little stories that only appeared once or twice and are hard to find. I just have to persuade a publisher … or maybe even do it myself; that’s easier these days.
As re: “Pueblo, CO Has The Answers”, the only place I am sure it is still accessible in public is on fictionwise.com. It’s downloadable. However … send me your email, Lynn, by PM and I will send you a copy.
After all, it’s mine, now.
Kathleen, I’ve received the download. Thank you very much. I look forward to reading it tonight. I do have In the Company of Thieves and The Best of Kage Baker already. I just wondered about the older stories published in the magazines.
Silly me, I had read it – realized it about two paragraphs in. However, I read it all through again and enjoyed it just as much the second time. Thank you, thank you.
Well, I’m glad you had read it – but sorry it wasn’t a new treat! Nonetheless, thank you for liking it. If you find you are missing any other stories, just let me know!